Sunday, August 03, 2008

God is Imaginary: #16 Contemplate the Contradictions

Contemplate the Contradictions.

So... one minute we have God carving into stone, "Thou shalt not kill." Then the next minute we have God telling each man to strap a sword to his side and lay waste to thousands. Wouldn't you expect the almighty ruler of the universe to be slightly more consistent than this?

More precisely, one minute we have God carving into stone, "Thou shalt not... murder." and the next minute authorizing a lawful authority to use its power. The difference is who is being told. You can drive your car without breaking the law. I can drive my car without breaking the law. I can drive your car if you give me permission without breaking the law. However, if I drive your car without your permission, I'm breaking the law. That I can do something legally when I have been authorized doesn't mean that I can also do it without authorization.


I'm going to skip the slavery example, as they've already discussed it.


According to the Christian faith, he plans to torture them for eternity in the fires of hell. Since we all know that torture is always wrong, we have a contradiction.

Masochists derive pleasure from that which, if it were done by another, would constitute torture. If one willfully does something which to oneself which can be construed as torture, one cannot hold another responsible--particularly if the other party warned you and did everything short of preventing you from doing so. Since God has done everything to stop us, we can scarcely accuse Him of being responsible for our torment.

In the "Understanding the Rationalizations" box, they criticize the "separation from God," hypothesis as requiring a rereading of Scripture. It does not. If you recognize that God is the source of everything that is good, the removal of God will leave nothing but unquenchable fire.
The active malice and cruelty in hell comes from within--all that is left once God's blessing has been removed.

Back to the Fifty Reasons.

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16 Comments:

Anonymous Dominus Sit Illuminatio Mea said...

I think these arguments (the arguments of the "God is Imaginary" authors) get things a bit backwards, here. Their approach is to establish some moral proposition through questionable means (I've made my complaints with their ethical arguments in an earlier post. The approach is evident in this post, as well, with such language as: "we all know that torture is always wrong" and "It is obvious to modern human beings that slavery is an abomination." Logically, these assertions are hard to even classify as arguments; and besides being factually incorrect, they are at best akin to the logical "bandwagon" fallacy). Once a moral proposition has been established in this way, the authors seek to prove inconsistency on God's part by pointing out some interpretation of Scripture that seems to contradict it.

The trouble with this is that it puts the cart before the horse. I suspect that most Christians would accept that God is the source of all morality. In other words, if we imagined some alternate universe where God directly commanded his people to murder and steal, and created mankind with consciences that compelled them to murder and steal, murdering and stealing would not be morally wrong. "That which God accepts or commands" is, for the Christian, very close to the definition of morality. God, being perfectly good, by definition cannot command an immoral action. This is the problem with the argument--it attempts to convince Christians that some moral proposition exists, without reference to--and in fact in contradiction with--the author of all morality. The attempt is bound to fail.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

In other words, if we imagined some alternate universe where God directly commanded his people to murder and steal, and created mankind with consciences that compelled them to murder and steal, murdering and stealing would not be morally wrong.

Would too.

it attempts to convince Christians that some moral proposition exists, without reference to--and in fact in contradiction with--the author of all morality. The attempt is bound to fail.

The site is attempting to convince Christians that God is imaginary. You can't say "since it's a given that Christians believe God exists, this attempt is bound to fail." Many people do depart Christianity because of the difference between God's moral sense and their own.

If one willfully does something which to oneself which can be construed as torture, one cannot hold another responsible

I don't buy that "doing it to himself" angle. It's like saying, "I set up a system where if you spend all your money, you have to spend eternity in slavery to me" and then saying "Hey, those broke people chose to spend their money, I'm not responsible."

Since God has done everything to stop us,

"Everything" is stretching it for someone who's supposedly omnipotent.

If you recognize that God is the source of everything that is good, the removal of God will leave nothing but unquenchable fire.

That doesn't seem logically necessary. The removal of God could leave nothing at all, or a mild itchy feeling. It's not like there was unquenchable fire everywhere, and then God created the good stuff on top of it. There's really no reason the universe should have "awful" as a default setting.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Dominus Sit Illuminatio Mea said...

The site is attempting to convince Christians that God is imaginary. You can't say "since it's a given that Christians believe God exists, this attempt is bound to fail."

Actually...I can. Since the site is trying to convince Christians that God is imaginary, it is given that Christians believe God exists--otherwise the attempt to convince would be pointless. In fact, for the site to assume that God doesn't exist would be question-begging on their part.

Many people do depart Christianity because of the difference between God's moral sense and their own.

This is a separate issue. Point granted, but I'm not sure much follows from it.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

Since the site is trying to convince Christians that God is imaginary, it is given that Christians believe God exists--otherwise the attempt to convince would be pointless.

It is given that Christians believe God exists before visiting the site. You're taking it as given that Christians will continue to believe that God exists and is the author of morality after reading the article. This quote -- "This is the problem with the argument--it attempts to convince Christians that some moral proposition exists, without reference to--and in fact in contradiction with--the author of all morality. -- sounds to me like saying "This argument is trying to convince (people who believe Shakespeare wrote Hamlet) that (part of Hamlet) exists without (Shakespeare having written it) -- when Shakespeare is the author of all of Shakespeare's plays!"

Many people do depart Christianity because of the difference between God's moral sense and their own.

This is a separate issue. Point granted, but I'm not sure much follows from it.


I think you think I was saying that people depart because their morality doesn't live up to God's standards. I was saying people depart because God's morality doesn't live up to their standards.

This is on point because you were arguing that it's futile to argue a moral position exists that God didn't author. But people who quit Christianity because God allows eating animals, or whatever, actually were persuaded by that very argument -- "here's something you find immoral. God says it's moral. Therefore you need to go beyond Christianity to attain true morality." If it really were futile to make this argument, every Christian confronted by it would say "God is the author of morality, therefore my independent sense of morality is wrong." But some are persuaded to reject the premise "God is the author of morality" instead.

So: no current Christians have been persuaded by this argument, or they wouldn't be Christians. But they can be persuaded (making them ex-Christians), so it's not a futile attempt.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Dominus Sit Illuminatio Mea said...

It is given that Christians believe God exists before visiting the site. You're taking it as given that Christians will continue to believe that God exists and is the author of morality after reading the article.

I am taking it as a given that Christians will continue to believe that God exists at the time that the site is making the argument. This is necessarily true, as I have said, because any attempt to convince someone that God doesn't exist necessarily assumes that that person believes that God exists. Whether Christians continue to believe in God after visiting the site depends on the success of the site's argument, but the site cannot assume, as one of its premises, the very proposition that it is trying to establish (i.e., the non-existence of God.) That would be begging the question.

This quote -- "This is the problem with the argument--it attempts to convince Christians that some moral proposition exists, without reference to--and in fact in contradiction with--the author of all morality. -- sounds to me like saying "This argument is trying to convince (people who believe Shakespeare wrote Hamlet) that (part of Hamlet) exists without (Shakespeare having written it) -- when Shakespeare is the author of all of Shakespeare's plays!"

This is a false analogy. The site is not trying to convince Christians that God is not the author of morality (or that Shakespeare is not the author of Hamlet). This would be a valid argument. Instead, it assumes that God is not the author of all morality (or that Shakespeare is not the author of all of Hamlet), and then uses this assumption to argue that there is no God (or that there is no Shakespeare).

The analogy is further flawed, because the existence of a part of Hamlet authored by, say, Christopher Marlowe, would not contradict Shakespeare's very existence.

On the whole, I think the Shakespeare analogy has dulled, rather than clarified, the point. Instead of pursuing it further, let me sketch my argument:

Assumed arguendo:
All valid moral propositions are authored by God.

The site's argument:
Moral proposition X exists, but God's word commands ~X; therefore, God cannot exist.

My argument:
Since God is given as the author of all morality, and has commanded ~X, proposition X cannot be a valid moral proposition. In order to establish that X is a valid moral proposition, the site must first establish that God is not the author of all morality.

Noumenon's argument (as I understand it):
You are assuming that God exists. If God does not exist, then clearly He cannot be the author of all morality.

My counterargument:
Yes, I am assuming that God exists. This is apodeictically true, since the site was trying to convince me otherwise. For anyone from the site's point of view to assume that God cannot be the author of all morality because there is no God would be question-begging.

I think you think I was saying that people depart because their morality doesn't live up to God's standards. I was saying people depart because God's morality doesn't live up to their standards.

Yes, I understand you. But since I define morality as "that which is commanded by God," finding my morality contradictory to God's morality is logically impossible. I do not question the empirical proposition that some people lose their faith because their moral sense is contradictory to God's word; I am merely arguing that these people either:
(1)are making a logical error; or
(2)do not believe that God is the author of all morality.

Proposition (2) is what we should be arguing about; and, I suspect, it is in fact what we have been arguing about all along.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

I see what you're saying! For my Shakespeare argument to be like the site's argument, it would have to go "Here's a part of Hamlet that was not written by Shakespeare. Therefore, Shakespeare does not exist." If Shakespeare didn't write one of Shakespeare's plays, that doesn't mean he didn't exist, it just means that play is not one of Shakespeare's plays (analogous to "that proposition is not one of God's moral propositions.")

I guess I thought your problem was with non-God-inspired morality as a conclusion, but you were merely criticizing it as a premise. I am on board now.

4:58 AM  
Anonymous Dominus Sit Illuminatio Mea said...

Yes, I was thinking about this more, this morning. I thing that what was dulling the issue is the burden of proof. Since the site is attempting to prove the nonexistence of God, they cannot assume that conclusion as one of their premises. But since I am merely advancing a counter-argument (I'm not trying to prove the existence of God; I'm merely attacking their proof of His nonexistence), it's entirely permissible for me to assume that my position correct when framing my counter-argument.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Curse Blogger and its non-threaded comments. I'll give the name as a link to the original post.

Dominus Sit Illuminatio Mea

"That which God accepts or commands" is, for the Christian, very close to the definition of morality. God, being perfectly good, by definition cannot command an immoral action.

I would classify this even more tightly. That which God is, is the definition of morality. As Christ said, "Why do you call me good? No one is good--except God alone." A word in which God commanded people to steal and murder could not exist, because God by his nature cannot do so. God's inherent goodness, by the way, is my answer to the Euthyphro problem.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Noumenon

"I set up a system where if you spend all your money, you have to spend eternity in slavery to me" and then saying "Hey, those broke people chose to spend their money, I'm not responsible."

But what if he set up such a system, they spent all their money, and then he said, "Okay, here's your money back, now try it again."


"Everything" is stretching it for someone who's supposedly omnipotent.

Okay, everything that would not kill us with His glory.


There's really no reason the universe should have "awful" as a default setting.

The reason the universe has "awful as a default setting" is because of us. We are the actors, not the audience. The evil, the active rebellion against God, continues when he leaves sinners to their own devices.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Noumenon

But people who quit Christianity because God allows eating animals, or whatever, actually were persuaded by that very argument -- "here's something you find immoral.

Ironically, Scripture speaks to precisely this issue in Romans 14:2-3:

"2One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him."

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Dominus Sit Illuminatio Mea said...

would classify this even more tightly. That which God is, is the definition of morality.

I don't disagree. :)

A word in which God commanded people to steal and murder could not exist, because God by his nature cannot do so.

Hmm...I think that might be right. I'm not prepared to say that such a world couldn't exist, but I think I was wrong to suggest imagining such a world. I can't actually imagine a world where God commands people to steal and murder, because God, in that world, would no longer be God as I understand Him.

God's inherent goodness, by the way, is my answer to the Euthyphro problem.

Yes, this is close to Aquinas's solution too, I believe. I'm still not sure. I tend to believe that morality is moral because it is what God commands. Denying this seems to me to entail that God has created a moral order that is bigger than Himself, and I just can't comprehend that the creation can bind the Creator.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

I tend to believe that morality is moral because it is what God commands. Denying this seems to me to entail that God has created a moral order that is bigger than Himself, and I just can't comprehend that the creation can bind the Creator.

God's nature is made manifest through creation. So it's not a higher moral order, more of a self-referential system. God does what He does because it is His nature to do so.

The difficulty with God's command as the sole basis of moral behavior is that it opens Him to charges of capriciousness, i.e., murder, rape, and theft could be perfectly sinless, if only God hadn't made a law against them. He's condemning us because he can.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

Okay, everything that would not kill us with His glory.

Would it kill us for sin to feel mildly unpleasant instead of fun? Or perhaps to pop up a little dialog box that says "Warning! You are about to sin. Continue? Yes - No."

The reason the universe has "awful as a default setting" is because of us. We are the actors, not the audience.

The most bullshit thing about Christianity -- as opposed to stuff where I'm like, "I think science explains it better," or "Nice, but I just don't feel it" -- is how God shifts the blame for everything to humans, while still trying to take credit for everything else. "Oh, don't blame me. I just created the rules, put you in your situation, gave you your desires and epistemological ability, gave you choices without any ability to comprehend the magnitude of the consequences, and continue to sustain existence itself no matter how bad the consequences for you -- but anything bad that happens as a result is your fault. Nothing I could do."

If God had any interest in keeping people out of Hell instead of playing out his silly little sacrifice game, he'd uncreate the universe right now. Preferably retroactively back to the beginning, but even if he just cut it off here and arbitrarily damned everyone who hadn't died yet he'd still be doing more than he is right now.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

But what if he set up such a system, they spent all their money, and then he said, "Okay, here's your money back, now try it again."

If a casino did this, would you say, "Wow, what a fair system"? Especially after noticing that about even after this offer at least 60% of the people still end up broke slaves.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

If God had any interest in keeping people out of Hell...

I recommend not wasting any time trying to argue with this, as it's just a ranty opinion and not meant to be persuasive or amenable to persuasion.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Dominus Sit Illuminatio Mea said...

The difficulty with God's command as the sole basis of moral behavior is that it opens Him to charges of capriciousness

I don't see why. Just because God has the ability to create such an order, doesn't mean He would want to. Or perhaps that's what you're arguing--that God wouldn't create a universe where theft and murder were encouraged because it's not in His nature to desire such a universe?

6:20 PM  

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